Hamas Leader Talks Peace

Incoming Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh waves to journalists after his meeting with leaders from Palestinian factions in Gaza city Monday March 13, 2006.
AP Photo/Hatem Moussa
Hamas said Thursday that it will present the new Palestinian government next week. But Israel, the U.S. and other countries refuse to recognize Hamas, which has ordered numerous terrorist bombings and other attacks.

In an exclusive interview, CBS News correspondent David Hawkins talked with the man who will lead the government, new prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Haniyeh says there's no blood on his hands … that he's never personally ordered any kind if military action or terrorist action against Israel. Israeli officials agree: They tell CBS News that they have no evidence connecting Haniyeh to any terror attacks.

Nonetheless, the 43-year-old father of 13 is a top member of Hamas, a terrorist group that's murdered hundreds of Israelis.

When asked what he'd say if one of his children told him he wanted to be a martyr, Haniyef said "We are not bloodthirsty people. We want to stop the bloodshed."

And though Hamas has sent suicide bombers into Israel, Haniyeh says he's never done any such thing and would discourage his kids from doing so.

"I've never sent anyone on a suicide mission," he said. "If one of my sons came to me and asked me that, I wouldn't give him my blessing."

Hamas hasn't sent any suicide bombers into Israel for more than six months. But if it restarts it's terror campaign, Haniyeh will be at the top of Israel's hit list. He narrowly escaped assassination once before — three years ago, an Israeli F-16 bombed a house where he was meeting other Hamas leaders.

So what would it take for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist?

"That depends on Israel's recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem," he said. "Only then can there be room for talks."

Israel calls all that "double talk." It says Haniyeh is the smiling face of Hamas' public relations campaign to soften its murderous image in the West.

But when asked if he could foresee a day when he would be invited to the White House to sign a peace agreement with an Israeli prime minister, he answered, "Let's hope so."

Words of hope and not hatred are a new vocabulary for Hamas.